by Barbara McNichol
Reading through a book or report or email with lots of word clutter makes me feel like I’m swimming in Jell-O. My mind goes into slow motion. I lose attention. I start thinking about picking dead leaves off plants.
I’m sure you know what I mean by “word clutter.” It’s those long-winded phrases that the writer didn’t take the time to pare down.
Well, I have a magic trick for cutting out dead words and leaving my plants for another day.
Word Clutter Pop Quiz
What is the #1 way to make sentences less verbose and more direct?
Answer: Change long noun phrases to short verbs.
Consider the differences in these 3 examples:
- “They remain in contradiction with themselves” vs. “They contradict themselves.” (“Contradiction” is the noun; “contradict” is the verb.)
- “He made an acknowledgement of her success” vs. “He acknowledged her success.” (“Acknowledgement” is the noun; “acknowledged” is the verb.)
- “She initiated an implementation of the plan.” vs. “She implemented the plan.” (“Implementation” is the noun; “implemented” is the verb.)
See how less wordy and more direct the second version is in each sentence?
And Here’s Another Cagey Trick
If you’re not sure whether you can turn a long-winded noun into an active, lively verb, a dead giveaway is nouns ending in “ion” and “ment.” Notice in these examples the words contradiction, acknowledgement, and implementation. All those nouns have been successfully turned into shorter, more action-oriented verbs.
So the next time you edit your own work, use this magic trick and add more BAM! to your writing.
What writing tricks do you use to reduce word clutter?